Russian-English paper gives new news to Moscow readers

April 24, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON -- Russian newspapers do a rotten job covering women, Maxwell McCrohon was saying. And, the Western image aside, they're not all dowdy mopes in babushkas, staring at empty grocery shelves.

"There's a very strong streak of male chauvinism over there," he adds. "The young women are really very bright, very sharp."

Well, Mr. McCrohon, former editor of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, now can make an inroad or two in altering portrayals of females, and perhaps more: He's U.S. editor for We/Mbl ("Mbl" is Russian for "We"), a joint American-Russian newspaper that has been publishing separate English- and Russian-language editions since February.

The look and feel of the broadsheet, a joint venture of Hearst Corp. and Izvestia, the Soviet daily that's 51 percent employee-owned, won't knock the socks off Americans accustomed to clean layouts, lots of color and neat graphics.

But it's an alluring shock for a Soviet audience, accustomed to papers and printing as engaging as refrigerator manuals -- and assuming they can meet the stiff price of 3 rubles on average salaries of 900 rubles a month (the English edition is $1.25).

"We set out to print an American-style paper that goes beyond politics to explain American culture to a Russian audience," explained Mr. McCrohon, who'd been consulting for Hearst after the demise of the Herald Examiner.

There are 15-person staffs each in Washington and Moscow. Mr. McCrohon, 63, runs the office here with Sergei Darydin, 40, once the youngest editor appointed to Izvestia's editorial board and its deputy international editor.

The paper's tone and thrust are akin to a Sunday newspaper, trying to recap events, discern trends and provide analysis. About 80 percent of the editorial matter is the same in both editions. Moscow handles all translation, no small feat given clashing stylistic traditions -- the Soviet being discursive and opinionated, the American more distant and dry.

Typically, a story on hoopla over Oliver Stone's "JFK" was hot for Soviets, but Mr. McCrohon decided it was old news for his audience and didn't run it. But while he wants a piece on the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, his Moscow counterparts find that a snooze and will take a pass.

A primary constituency for both editions is business folks. The Russian financial section is very much how-to on an incipient free market. The English edition's section is more a primer for U.S. businessmen navigating the Soviet commercial and legal systems.

Hearst's primary contribution is hard currency (it won't discuss the size of its investment). The English edition is printed in Springfield, Va., the Russian edition printed by Izvestia.

About 300,000 copies are distributed in eight republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States, with 60,000 English copies distributed in the United States, Europe and Far East. Press runs will rise depending on interest. It began as a monthly, went twice-a-month in April and goes weekly in June.

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